Monday, October 22, 2007

No "Nobel" for Irena? Return prize to Sendler!

You have some rural Protestant kids from Kansas who decide to tackle the story of a Polish Catholic woman who saved thousands of Jews ... it makes absolutely no sense ...
–Norm Conard, retired history teacher who encouraged four students to find “another Schindler”

In one way, the story of Irena Sendler, a living saint who saved perhaps 2,500 kids from horrible Holocaust deaths, reminds me a little of the story of Rudy. For not only was her noble story worth telling, but the way it became public is almost as fascinating as the story itself. And with all due respect to Ruettiger and the Irish, a bit more holy also.

Indeed the Sendler story most likely would have died with the smiling, now 97-year-old Warsaw nursing home resident if not for the research of the above mentioned four kids from Kansas. Eight years ago Megan Stewart-Felt, Elizabeth Cambers, Janice Underwood and Sabrina Coons-Murphy were researching a project in Mr. Conard's high school history class, and came across a few lines on Sendler in a U.S. News and World Report article entitled, "The other Schindlers." Still, finding enough to do their own report on Irena proved dead-end until they wrote The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in hopes they would send them a detailed obituary of Sendler. To the girls' astonishment, the Foundation not only wrote the Kansas girls that Irena was alive, but gave them her Warsaw address. This, as Humphrey Bogart's Casablanca character would say, was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Beginning her frequent return correspondence with the words "My dear beloved girls so close to my heart," Sendler, nicknamed "the mother of the children of the Holocaust," became a surrogate mother to the girls themselves—three of which, due to death or divorce, had no mothers of their own. The letters (as well as visits; the four later went to personally meet Sendler in Warsaw) themselves detailed how Sendler, then a young social worker not much older than the four girls, would smuggle doomed Polish-Jew infants out of the Warsaw ghetto in medical bags or carpenter's boxes, and place them in the homes of now Jewish Poles or Catholic converts. In case of the miraculous (the parents of the children returning from the gas chambers) as well as so the infants themselves would later have a record of their ancestry, she buried information of each child she saved in an individual glass jar underneath an apple tree. Life in a Jar performances, not only brought the president of Poland out to kiss Ms. Sendler's hand, but brought her a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

Which brings us to the moral of this blog. I think, this story, as Norm Conard implies, is ecumenism at its best, for although none of the girls have converted to Irena's Catholic faith, they have not only brought a story of an unknown saint to the world, but have found another mother in the process. Certainly, if all pro-life Jews and Christians could work this closely on the next presidential election, a relative unknown named Huckabee would be sitting (actually, in Mike's case, mostly moving) in the White House in 2008.

On the other hand, this case also demonstrates the worldwide Catholic-Christian prejudice. In other words, how Al Gore and his cohorts can win the Nobel Peace Prize over Irena is beyond my comprehension. For even if all his Global Warming theories prove to be true (and many respected scientists have shown some, if not all of them, not) Mr. Gore does not exactly live the conservation lifestyle, while there is little doubt Sendler not only lived as a Christian, but still does. And while I'm not sure the peaceful Irena is active in American politics, if she was, it sure would be great if "Huck" got her endorsement. For as a woman who saved children, to a man who soon hopes to, Irena could offer Michael concrete advice that the other candidates could only dream about.

1 comment :

Alice Gunther said...

What a beautiful, amazing, and hopeful story.

Thank you.